NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Mojave Solar Project Killing Threatened Desert Tortoises

April 10, 2012

Construction of BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah solar power project in the Mojave Desert is destroying the habitat of threatened desert tortoises.  Conservationists have documented that the project has directly caused many desert tortoise deaths, in addition to disturbing the natural environment of all the reptiles in the area, says the Heartland Institute.

The specifications of the Ivanpah project should leave little question as to how it managed to upset the local ecosystem.

  • The Ivanpah project will consume 3,500 acres of public land -- roughly six square miles.
  • This land is centered in the Mojave Desert, which is a relatively ecologically fragile environment that is home to many species that cannot find homes elsewhere.
  • In preparing the project plot, BrightSource mowed down desert plants, displaced dozens of animal species and relocated numerous desert tortoises.
  • Some experts say that these moves could kill up to one-third of the threatened reptiles.

What will also likely incur public outrage over the project is that the massive project will accomplish little in terms of energy production.

  • The Ivanpah project will cost more than $2 billion.
  • Capital costs and other market factors will make the solar energy captured at Ivanpah three times more expensive than natural gas or coal.
  • As a result, electricity customers will see their bills increase up to 50 percent for renewable energy, according to an analysis from the state Public Utilities Commission.

Jeff Lovich, a research ecologist with the Southwest Biological Science Center, emphasizes that much of the disturbance to the local environment could likely have been avoided if any research had been done regarding the consequences of the building action.  The effects of heat generation, light reflection, vibration, dust, noise and on the ecosystem should all have been considered.

Furthermore, H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis, points out the hypocrisy of the government and environmental community.  They allow these atrocities against an endangered species to be perpetrated by an alternative energy effort, yet no such ambivalence would exist were these efforts put forth by a traditional oil company.

Source: Kenneth Artz, "Mojave Solar Project Killing Threatened Desert Tortoises," Heartland Institute, April 2, 2012.

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